Fordham hides from facts

UPDATE: Fordham has now published our comment on their site, for which we are grateful. See the comments to this article for their explanation.

The Fordham Foundation, one of Ohio's more vocal charter school boosters, has a post on their website defending the high number of failing charter schools. The piece is written by Aaron Churchill, someone we have observed stretching facts and the truth before (Fordham loses its bearings). Like his previous piece's error addled analysis, his latest defense of failing charter schools goes to great lengths to obfuscate hard truths using indefensible "statistical analysis".

Rather than write a post here on JTF, we tried to leave a long comment pointing out just some of the errors in the post. Fordham has decided they would rather that comment be hidden and not be published, so we are publishing it below, in response to a Fordham reader asking us to

Aaron states "The chart shows that a nearly equal number of charters reside in the state’s bottom 111 schools"

Let's just assume that is correct. What if utterly fails to recognize is that there are orders of magnitude more traditional public school buildings than charter schools - so the fact that so many charter school buildings appear in the bottom 111 should be disturbing to everyone, not glommed onto as a point of false equivalence. As an overall percentage of school buildings charter schools dominate the bottom rankings.

Let's look at another claim made by Aaron...

"The fact of the matter is that taxpayers spend less on each child in a charter school then is spent on their district peers."

That claim is contradicted by the Ohio Department of Education (link here:http://www.scribd.com/doc/117636411/ODE-Analysis-of-Per-Pupil-Cost-of-Charters-and-Publics).

"The average of total expenditure per pupil for public districts is $10,110.72.

The average expenditure per pupil for community schools is $9,064. When broken out: For e-schools it’s $7,027. For non-eschool community schools it’s $10,165.

So only when one combines the cost of the laughably cheap (and ludicrously underperforming) e-schools do Ohio's charters look inexpensive - and that's using ODE as a source.

Aaron did a good job, as all charter school boosters do, of obfuscating the facts - which is that the vast majority of Ohio's charter schools deliver a poor quality education at an inflated cost.

Let's close them down and concentrate our energy on the schools that 95% of Ohio's students go to, and maybe learn some things along the way from the few charter schools that are getting it right, instead of this constant non-debate and excuse making about the terrible charter schools we all know exist in very high numbers.

Fordham likes to hide behind their advocacy for charter school accountability and quality, but whenever they are pressed on this, they obfuscate the difficult facts and revert to defending the rotten and the failing. They may talk a good game, but in the end they are no less a charter school booster as White Hat owner, David Brennan. Mr. Churchill's post and decision to avoid a discussion on it are further proof of that.

Surprise! Charters want even more money.

In testimony before the House Finance committee, Charter school operators and their boosters expressed sadness at the Governor's education budget. Despite school districts having to deduct $824 billion this school year to fund charter schools (most of which are failing), they want more. They argued they should receive

  • $5,704 per pupil, not $5,000, as the base amount (but would not answer the question of whether or not traditional public schools should receive a base amount higher than $5,000).
  • Up to $1,000 per pupil (instead of he proposed $100) for buildings and that online charter schools should also receive building funds

Only 5% of Ohio's students go to a charter school, and much less than 1% go to a quality one, yet charter operators and their boosters want more than 10% of the funding. These aren't fair or tennable requests being made, it is greed at the expense of the majority of students who choose to go to a traditional public school.

A doomsday bill for public ed

Innovation Ohio follow up on the news that the public school privatization bill (HB136) is going to change, with some interesting new analysis on what some of the proposed changes might mean

Huffman admitted that in its current form, HB 136 could create a potential “doomsday scenario” for Ohio’s public schools. He said that estimates of the bill’s cost to public schools—$500 million just to pay for students who already attend private schools, and nearly $1 billion in lost revenue once the bill was fully phased in—were “valid.”

The good news is that Huffman announced that a scaled back version of HB 136 would either be introduced as a new bill or rolled into a new education plan Gov. Kasich is expected to submit next year.

The bad news is that even this “scaled back” version would cost districts up to $76.5 million, effectively doubling the cost of private school vouchers from last year.

And many of Huffman’s proposed changes would still present public schools with massive problems.

Take his proposal to cap the amount of state money any district could lose at $4,500 per student, for example.

Under this proposal, locally raised property taxes would still be sent to private schools. Why? Because the $4,500 per pupil in state money Huffman cites is a phantom figure. Its what a district might get before “deductions” for Charter Schools, Open Enrollment, and other voucher programs. Last year, for example, the state provided public school districts with $6.5 billion—which equated to nearly $3,800 for each of the 1.75 million children in those districts. But after “deductions” for charters, vouchers, and open enrollment, that $3,800 shrunk to roughly $3,200. So if districts get $3,200 per pupil from the state—but could lost up to $4,500 per pupil for private school vouchers—they would still lose money. And that would require the schools to either cut programs or seek more funding from taxpayers through local levies.

You can read the whole piece here.

Poll finds large opposition to voucher plan

There is a large and growing level of opposition to the plan to effectively privatize public education in Ohio via HB136.

A new poll (see below) just released finds the public overwhelmingly does not support more vouchers. The BASA, OASBO and OSBA poll found Sixty percent of voters polled said they do not think Ohio tax dollars should be used for private school tuition subsidies. The poll also found

Another topic of the survey addressed the accountability of private schools receiving tax subsidies. The survey asked whether private schools accepting voucher students should be required to maintain the same standards of testing and assessment of overall student performance as their public school counterparts. More than 85% of respondents strongly favor common assessment practices for students in all schools — whether public, private or parochial.

Following on from that, the Time-Reporter has an article titled "Superintendents blast voucher bill"

Some superintendents in the Tuscarawas Valley think a proposal to expand Ohio’s school voucher program would have a negative impact on public education in the state.

Ryan Delaney, superintendent of Claymont City Schools in Uhrichsville, termed the bill a “disaster.”

“I hope it fails,” he said.
“I’ve been watching this bill because it will have an impact — directly or indirectly — on this area and public education,” said Jeff Staggs, superintendent of Newcomerstown Exempted Village Schools.
Vouchers were originally put in place to help students coming from failing school districts, said Bob Alsept, superintendent of New Philadelphia City Schools.

“I understand that,” he said. “Now they’re looking at extending that. I don’t see how that’s not taking money away from public education.”

It isn't just Superintendents, who some might argue would naturally oppose this plan, it is also organizations that might be expected to strongly support it

While the Catholic Conference of Ohio testified in favor of HB 136, it has reservations about the legislation that was approved by the House Education Committee.

Keough said the Catholic Conference hopes the bill can be amended so it can be fair to public schools and public school students while also benefiting scholarship students.

“We want to champion school choice that can benefit the working poor and lower middle-income families without undermining the public school system,” he said.

Coupled with the initial massive expansion, over time, students whose parents would have normally paid for their children's private education will be able to take advantage of this scheme, and the money sucked from the public education system will have disasterous effects. Greg Mild at Plunderbund crunched some numbers and the results are shocking. You should check out the full analysis, but here's some snippets

  • 538 out of 612 (88%) school districts have a voucher ratio greater than 1.0, meaning that the voucher amount deducted from the district and given to the private school is greater than the per pupil amount allocated to the public school district.
  • 185 school districts have a voucher ratio of 2.0 or higher, resulting in a voucher payment of more than double the public funding amount.
  • Of the 185 school districts with a voucher ratio of higher than 2.0, 142 achieved a rating of Excellent or Excellent with Distinction from the Ohio Department of Education for the 2010-2011 school year.
  • School districts with an Excellent with Distinction, the highest rating obtainable in Ohio and a demonstration of sustained excellence, have an average voucher ratio of 2.35. This means that HB136 would make the statement that private school students in these districts should receive 2.35 times as much funding as these high-performing public schools
  • The Upper Arlington City SD is reported as having a negative state school funding dollar amount, resulting in a situation where no student would have access to the voucher funding proposed in HB136
  • Some of the highest performing districts will have to pay over 10x the amount they receive from the state in private school tuition
  1. Rocky River City SD – 12.88 x per pupil funding
  2. Olentangy Local SD – 10.47 x per pupil funding
  3. Sycamore Community SD – 11.20 x per pupil funding

Ohio Survey shows voters donʼt support government subsidies for private schools

HB 136 presents a grave and present danger to the contiuned viability of public education in Ohio. You should contact your legislator immediately and strongly urge them to oppose this radical legislation.

Olentangy Schools Budget

Olentangy Schools Superintendent, Wade Lucas, provides a good overview of of the impact of the state budget on his district.

The Treasurer, Rebecca Jenkins, testimony on HB153 can be read here, and provides a good backdrop to the financial havoc this reckless budget is causing. This section caught our eye

Note that charter school per pupil funding (as well as state-wide per pupil funding) has grown each year over that same time period. This would seem logical since the state pupil funding amount has grown steadily over that period. It is interesting to note that if charter schools were kept at their 2006 funding level (like many other growing schools have experienced) their funding would have been over $55 million less in FY11.

Olentangy have a May 3rd ballot issue whereby voters will asked to pass a 7.9-mill operating and no-additional-millage bond issue. If you live in the district, take a moment to check out their FAQ.